Ask Dr. Hansen: What Are The Causes Of Knee And Hip Joint Pain?
The demand for total knee and total hip joint replacements is on the rise. Summit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dane Hansen explains the causes of joint injury and how these conditions may be managed with nonsurgical treatments.
We depend on healthy knees and hips to perform our jobs and enjoy our lives. When joint pain makes activity painful, our lifestyle—and livelihood—can suffer. Dr. Dane Hansen shares knee and hip joint pain causes and what can be done about it.
Rising number of knee replacements
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, between 1993 and 2009, the number of total knee replacement surgeries more than tripled and the number of total hip replacements doubled. These increases in surgeries are attributed in great part to the rise in obesity rates as well as to an active baby boomer generation unwilling to let joint pain keep them from the vibrant lifestyle they love.
“Joint replacement procedures make a significant contribution to general health by helping people stay physically fit and active,” says Summit surgeon Dane Hansen. “These surgeries are successfully performed over 1 million times each year in the U.S., but some people are hesitant to consider surgery, or think of joint replacement as a solution reserved for elderly patients. Understanding the causes of joint pain and treatment options can help you make informed medical decisions about how to treat a sore knee or hip.”
Knee and hip joint pain causes
There are two general categories of knee and hip joint pain causes: acute injuries and degenerative chronic conditions.
- Acute injuries are sudden injuries suffered in car crashes, sports accidents, or falls, causing everything from damaged knee cartilage and pulled muscles to more serious joint damage.
- Chronic conditions arise gradually. Degenerative and inflammatory arthritis are the main culprits. Degenerative arthritis is caused by joint wear and tear over time, and may be aggravated by repetitive use or by previous trauma. Surgeries can increase the risk of developing an arthritic joint, particularly surgeries to treat cartilage damage or meniscus tears. Excess weight may also take a toll on joint health, and place excess strain on knees. Finally, inflammatory and rheumatoid arthritis—both autoimmune conditions—may progressively cause joint pain and degeneration.
A sore knee or hip doesn’t always require a joint replacement. “Joint pain can frequently be managed with conservative, nonsurgical treatments,” explains Dr. Hansen. “Oral anti-inflammatory medications for pain and swelling work well for strained muscles and tendinitis, as well as for mild arthritis. If oral medications don’t relieve joint pain, steroid injections can be very helpful. Other conservative treatments include physical therapy, ultrasound and electrical stimulation, heat and ice treatment, and massage.”
Dr. Hansen cautions that when joint pain is caused by arthritis, conservative treatments should be managed with special care. “Anti-inflammatories and steroid and gel injections can be beneficial, but sometimes lose their effect over time,” he notes. “Similarly, advanced arthritis may be exacerbated by heavy exercise. However, options such as gentle therapist-guided exercises and bracing can be tailored to a patient’s individual condition to relieve pain and maintain activity levels.”
Making treatment decisions
“Understanding the causes of joint disease can help patients to make better-informed treatment decisions,” says Dr. Hansen. “I encourage patients to assess treatment choices based on many factors, including symptoms, lifestyle expectations, activity level, and nutrition. Discussing your condition and your health care choices with your orthopedic specialist can give you the confidence and comfort of understanding which options will work best for you.”
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